For two elections in a row, the South Dakota legislature has tried unsuccessfully to ban abortions. Even so, it came as a shock to learn that the state legislature is considering a bill that would legalize killing abortion providers. That’s right: legalize killing abortion providers. I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.
House Bill 1171, sponsored by Republican Phil Jensen, would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus. But not just your own fetus; no, HB 1171 would allow anyone to kill in the name of protecting “the unborn child of that person’s spouse, partner, parent, or child.” So in theory, if you’re a pregnant woman that wants an abortion but your husband disagrees, he could kill your abortion provider and have that be considered justifiable homicide.
Jensen claims that he merely wants to ensure that the state’s criminal code is operating with consistency in regards to how fetal death is punished. Currently, South Dakota – along with a number of other states – allows for people to be charged with murder or manslaughter for committing crimes that result in the death of a fetus. But there’s a massive difference between counting a pregnant woman’s murder as two crimes, and saying that it’s okay to commit murder in the name of a fetus.
HB 1171 has passed out of committee and is expected to move to the floor of the House soon. But that’s not the only bill that this strongly anti-choice legislature will be considering; there’s also a bill that would force women that want abortions to undergo counseling at a crisis pregnancy center before they are able to get an abortion. That same bill would also expand the mandatory waiting period to 72 hours post-“counseling,” as well as require the abortion provider to create an analysis of “risk factors associated with abortion” for each patient.
As fucked-up as it is to require women that want abortions to be “counseled” at a CPC, HB 1171 is even more unbelievable. It’s bad enough that abortion providers live with the constant threat of harm, harassment, and death. It’s bad enough that they have to wear bulletproof vests to work and worry about the safety of their employees just because they want to help women. Yet if Phil Jensen and his cronies have their way, the brave men and women that fly into South Dakota will be entering a state that says it is legal to kill them for doing their jobs.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.